On the challenges of writing a dissertation

The major problem with writing a dissertation is the management of emotions. Few students have ever attempted such a large project prior to undertaking their dissertations. They will encounter ups and downs, optimism and pessimism about their progress. My best advice stems from very basic knowledge about the psychology of learning: break large tasks into small tasks and set your goal to finish the small tasks in a timely fashion. —Professor Jerry Marwell, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Source: A Dissertator’s Primer, The Writing Center at UW–Madison

Writing for Social Scientists

Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article by Howard Becker is much more than a guide to writing; it is a guide to becoming a prolific (and thus successful) academic. Whereas many books on writing focus on style and grammar, Becker takes a broader view, covering everything from the writing process (“writing is a form of thinking”) to common pitfalls (the “One Right Way”) to writing’s place in research (think “working draft”). Becker illustrates his ideas with examples from his career as a professor of sociology, and his sociological perspective is refreshing, even liberating. If you’re an academic looking for ways to put off writing that next paper, I highly recommend this book.

Made to Stick

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die is a must-read for anyone charged with communicating ideas or influencing others. Chip Heath, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford, and Dan Heath, co-founder of Thinkwell, distill the secrets of effective communication into six principles: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and stories. To illustrate their framework, they employ numerous anecdotes and case studies. Well-written and fun to read, it’s no surprise this book is a New York Times bestseller.

Professors as Writers

Based on his research on scholarly writing and his experience counseling authors, Dr. Boice devised a four-stage approach to writing consistently and productively: (1) establish momentum, (2) develop external controls, (3) foster intrinsic motivation, and (4) leverage sociality. In his book, Professors as Writers: A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing, Boice introduces techniques for mastering each of these stages and offers insightful advice to keep the words flowing. Whether you’re currently experiencing a block or are simply looking for preventive measures, this book is a worthwhile read.